Energy and Environmental News for July 10th: L.A.’s “coal free” vow scuttles Utah power-plant expansion; Climate targets around the world

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"Energy and Environmental News for July 10th: L.A.’s “coal free” vow scuttles Utah power-plant expansion; Climate targets around the world"

Another one bites the dust:

Los Angeles’ ‘coal free’ vow scuttles Utah power-plant expansion

Plans for a new coal-fired power plant in central Utah were canceled after the city of Los Angeles — the plant’s biggest power purchaser — signaled its intention to be “coal free” by 2020.

The Intermountain Power Agency — a political subdivision of the state of Utah co-owned by municipal and rural electric cooperatives — has dropped plans to build a proposed third 900-megawatt coal-fired generating unit at the Intermountain Power Plant near Delta, Utah.

“The project has been abandoned,” IPA spokesman John Ward said yesterday.

The decision came after Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced last week that the city — which purchases about 45 percent of the IPA’s power — wants to end its use of coal-fired power by 2020. Villaraigosa said that the city will replace its coal-fired electricity with energy from renewable sources, natural gas, nuclear and hydroelectric power….

The Sierra Club hailed the decision to abandon the plant, saying it marked the 100th plant to be prevented or abandoned since 2001.

“At the beginning of the coal rush in 2001, it seemed inevitable that as many as 150 new proposed coal plants would get built,” said Bruce Nilles, director of the organization’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “Since then we’ve seen an incredible change in the way people, businesses and governments — like Los Angeles — are thinking about energy, figuring out how to generate and use it more cleanly and efficiently. Coal is no longer a smart or cost-effective option.”

Climate targets around the world

G8

The G8 leaders said on Wednesday that rich nations should cut emissions by 80% by 2050, while the world overall should reduce them 50% by 2050.

They said they had agreed to try to limit global warming to just 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial levels.

EUROPEAN UNION

The EU has promised a 20% cut in emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020, compared with 1990 levels. It has said that the target will be increased to 30% if there is a satisfactory international agreement.

It also says 20% of the total energy mix should come from renewables by 2020, and there should be a 20% cut in energy consumption by the same year.

UNITED STATES

President Barack Obama is backing a law which would set a target to cut emissions by 17% by 2020 and 83% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. But the US Senate might block the proposals or reduce the targets.

JAPAN

Japan has set a target for cutting emissions by 15% by 2020 but the baseline for this reduction is 2005, not 1990. This makes a significant difference because emissions were 6% higher in 2005 than they were in 1990.

AUSTRALIA

The Australian government says it will cut emissions by 5 – 25% by 2020 compared to 2000 levels depending on what other countries agree, and by 60% by 2050. It is also planning to introduce an emissions trading scheme but it faces opposition in the Australian Senate.

CHINA

China has set domestic targets for energy efficiency and use of renewable energy but nothing specifically on emissions. It may introduce an “emission intensity” target, i.e. the level of emissions for each unit of economic output. But that has not happened yet.

INDIA

India has not set targets to cut emissions.

BRAZIL

Brazil has not set targets to cut emissions. It is probable that any new deal negotiated at the United Nations climate change conference in December will place obligations on China, India and Brazil. These will probably take the form of limits on the future growth of emissions and, in the longer term, cuts in emissions.

Cities Lose Out on Road Funds From Federal Stimulus

Two-thirds of the country lives in large metropolitan areas, home to the nation’s worst traffic jams and some of its oldest roads and bridges. But cities and their surrounding regions are getting far less than two-thirds of federal transportation stimulus money.

According to an analysis by The New York Times of 5,274 transportation projects approved so far “” the most complete look yet at how states plan to spend their stimulus money “” the 100 largest metropolitan areas are getting less than half the money from the biggest pot of transportation stimulus money. In many cases, they have lost a tug of war with state lawmakers that urban advocates say could hurt the nation’s economic engines.

The stimulus law provided $26.6 billion for highways, bridges and other transportation projects, but left the decision on how to spend most of it to the states, which have a long history of giving short shrift to major metropolitan areas when it comes to dividing federal transportation money. Now that all 50 states have beat a June 30 deadline by winning approval for projects that will use more than half of that transportation money, worth $16.4 billion, it is clear that the stimulus program will continue that pattern of spending disproportionately on rural areas.

Utilities Seek to Halt Nuclear Waste Fee

The nuclear industry is contemplating something akin to a rent strike.

Since the early 1980s, utilities have been paying the Energy Department a fee of one tenth of a cent per kilowatt-hour generated in reactors, to fund a nuclear waste repository. In exchange for the payments, the department signed contracts promising to take the wastes beginning in 1997.

Funding Rules to Aid Renewables Unveiled

The Treasury and the Energy Department today unveiled long-awaited new rules under which the government will pay up to 30 percent of the cost of renewable energy projects.

The program was authorized by Congress as part of the stimulus package in February, but many projects have been on hold as investors waited to apply for the grants.

Government officials said that although there is no cap for the funding, they expected to give out $3 billion in grants”¦ The Department of Energy estimated that the renewable energy projects will have annual production of more than 13 million megawatt-hours of electricity, or enough renewable energy to supply over half a million homes.

A similar amount of electricity is supplied by two medium-sized nuclear reactors.

EPA racing to replace tossed Bush rules — air chief

U.S. EPA is working to issue replacement rules for Bush-era regulations aimed at slashing power plant emissions of soot, smog and mercury as quickly as possible, the agency’s top air official told a Senate panel today.

Gina McCarthy, EPA’s assistant administrator for air and radiation, said the agency plans to propose a replacement for the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) in early 2010 and to issue a final rule by early 2011. The agency is also moving forward on a replacement rule for the Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR) “as quickly as our understanding of the issues allows,” she said.

Most Americans don’t believe humans responsible for climate change, study finds

Barack Obama’s sense of urgency in getting Congress and the international community to act on climate change does not appear to have rubbed off on the average American, a new study published today reveals.

Even as the president pressed the G8 and the world’s major polluters to resist cynicism and the pressure of the economic recession to act against global warming, a majority of Americans remain unconvinced that humans are responsible for climate change, or that there is an urgent need to act.

About 49% of Americans believe the Earth is getting warmer because of the burning of fossil fuels and other human activity, the survey by the Pew Research Centre and the American Association for the Advancement of Science said. Some 36% attributed global warming to natural changes in the atmosphere and another 10% said there was no clear evidence that the earth was indeed undergoing climate change.

Africa lagging on climate change projects

The African continent is trailing behind with projects aimed at fighting climate change as provided under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol.

This was said by the Assistant Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Namibia and Head of its Environment Unit, Martha Mwandingi, in Windhoek recently.

This, according to her, is due to a misconception that CDM is too difficult to understand.

“CDM is really all about development, but some in the private sector are not aware of the benefits and opportunities which they can get from it,” she said.

Buses May Aid Climate Battle in Poor Cities

“¦But a few blocks away, sleek red vehicles full of commuters speed down the four center lanes of Avenida de las Am©ricas. The long, segmented, low-emission buses are part of a novel public transportation system called bus rapid transit, or B.R.T. It is more like an above-ground subway than a collection of bus routes, with seven intersecting lines, enclosed stations that are entered through turnstiles with the swipe of a fare card and coaches that feel like trams inside.

“¦But the rapid transit systems have another benefit: they may hold a key to combating climate change. Emissions from cars, trucks, buses and other vehicles in the booming cities of Asia, Africa and Latin America account for a rapidly growing component of heat-trapping gases linked to global warming. While emissions from industry are decreasing, those related to transportation are expected to rise more than 50 percent by 2030 in industrialized and poorer nations. And 80 percent of that growth will be in the developing world, according to data presented in May at an international conference in Bellagio, Italy, sponsored by the Asian Development Bank and the Clean Air Institute.

Downturn dries up oil demand

Peak oil may have arrived in the developed world – but for the consumption of crude, rather than its production.

The recession has crushed demand across the globe, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said yesterday. It does not expect demand for production to return to pre-recession levels until 2013.

Consumption in the developed world will remain stagnant for many years to come, OPEC said, even as many economists believe the wealthy world’s seemingly insatiable demand for oil may well have peaked permanently.

Nanopillars Promise Cheap, Efficient, Flexible Solar Cells

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California at Berkeley have demonstrated a way to fabricate efficient solar cells from low-cost and flexible materials. The new design grows optically active semiconductors in arrays of nanoscale pillars, each a single crystal, with dimensions measured in billionths of a meter.

Project to ‘grow carbon sinks’

Ambitious plans to grow 24 million trees to soak up carbon dioxide and restore the rainforest have got underway in Ghana.

The first million seedlings are being planted in a pilot scheme in an area that has been heavily logged in recent years.

The trees are all tropical hardwoods, mostly indigenous, and it is believed this project could eventually become the largest of its kind.

UW study: Pacific’s rainiest zone slowly creeping north

The rainiest segment of the Pacific tropics is creeping oh-so-slowly north.

That’s going to mean something to the weather in the Pacific Northwest.

But what exactly?

A University of Washington project might have an answer to that question in a year or so.

The scientists — led by University of Washington associate professor of oceanography Julian Sachs — collected and analyzed what is essentially several-hundred-year-old muck from four Pacific islands to get a grasp on rainfall figures just north of the equator from 1400 to 1850.

Their results were published in the latest issue of Nature Geoscience.

Flooding risk worsens, NWI report reveals

Northwest Indiana is at an increased risk for flooding as a result of global warming, according to a report released Thursday.

Making matters worse, the region has already committed nearly every mistake in the book as far as preventing floods: We have straightened rivers to speed water flow off the land. We have built in flood-prone areas and developed wetlands that buffer us from floods by absorbing some of the water. And we hope levees will keep us safe.

Wood burning creates top cancer risk in Oregon’s air, EPA says

Pollution from burning wood in stoves, fireplaces and elsewhere is the top cancer risk in Oregon’s air, according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency analysis.

Burning wood and other organic material creates a greater risk than even benzene, a carcinogen belched by cars and trucks in the tens of thousands of tons each year, the analysis indicates.

By contrast, the main toxins from incomplete combustion of burning wood — a class of chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (you can smell them) — measure in the low hundreds of tons a year from Oregon’s residential sources.

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12 Responses to Energy and Environmental News for July 10th: L.A.’s “coal free” vow scuttles Utah power-plant expansion; Climate targets around the world

  1. john says:

    The report on US climate targets is wrong — it implies our 2020 reduction level of 17% is measured against a 1990 baseline; it is not. The baseline for that targetis 2005, a much less ambitious goal.

  2. KJ says:

    Re “Los Angeles’ ‘coal free’ vow scuttles Utah power-plant expansion”:

    If Waxman-Markey was in effect, would Los Angeles take this kind of action knowing that its reduced use of coal power would simply allow more use of coal power elsewhere?

  3. paulm says:

    Insurance industry coming out of the closet!

    Cool-Planet Goal Shared by Large Polluters, Insurers
    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=adXgnJDUbhK0

    The 2-degree cap, supported by the EU since 1996, has gained acceptance from insurers, one of the first corporate converts.

    “The worrisome fact is that we do not know exactly what will happen for instance in a ‘3-degree-world,’” said Eberhard Faust, head of climate risk at Munich Re. “Science hints at strong adverse effects beyond this cap.” …
    If left unchecked, global warming may make the cost of some insurance “unbearable,” he said in an interview.

    “Even a 2 degree temperature rise is likely to lead to more intense storms, some significant droughts and a largely unknown effect on sea level,” Lloyd’s Maynard said.

  4. paulm says:

    ExxonMobil is not a climate change denier

    We have the same concerns as everyone on energy and greenhouse gas emissions, says Nick Thomas
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jul/10/response-exxon-mobil

  5. paulm says:

    And here we begin to see why 2°s is going to be crushing.
    The year on year effects of extreme events will become overbearing for many regions and states including well healed ones like the US. (and were only at a 0.8° increase now)

    Caribbean struggles to recover from ’08 hurricanes
    http://www.miamiherald.com/news/americas/haiti/story/1135690.html

    The Caribbean is still struggling to recover from last year’s hurricanes, with crews scrambling to rebuild homes and replant crops as the region faces a new season of storms.

    Last year was one of the most active seasons in more than six decades, with 15 of 18 Caribbean nations reporting damages, according to the Caribbean Development Bank.

    At least six major storms caused an estimated $355 million in damages from the Bahamas to the Dominican Republic in 2008, Pamela Knights, of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency, said Thursday.

    The total damage is considered to be much higher: Haiti — which was most affected — is not included on the list and several islands did not submit reports. Haitian officials have said that four tropical storms caused $1 billion in damages.

  6. Wow, kudos to Nick Thomas (above) the UK PR flack for Exxon uk.publicaffairs@exxonmobil.com by claiming they have been boy scouts all along. And gosh they like science.

    He still is weighted in denial that any carbon fuel combustion is harmful. (until we can make a carbon fuel that burns clean) The best we can do now is shut down coal, then move to shut down oil. Not firesale the last drops.

    He misses the point that under the US financial system EXXON has a fiduciary responsibility to deliver profit – and that can and must include rapacious and unethical acts of deceit in pursuit of that profit. Maybe not so in Britain.

    The oil and coal industries have been suborning the murder of our grandchildren. They try to escape this charge by challenging the science and smearing scientists. In England they may be a bit more civilized, but they are not yet fully honest about their role in promoting this.

    Don’t we all have a right to know the consequences of (y)our actions?

  7. mark says:

    A recent Newsy.com video analyzed media coverage on the progress (or lack thereof) made on carbon emissions at the G8 summit. One cited international source, Xinhua News from China, had this to say about what it saw as a double standard:
“While being vague about targets for themselves, the G8 leaders took a tougher position against emerging economies.”

    Obviously, China, along with India and Brazil, is one of the strongest emerging economies, if not the strongest, in the world, and has much to lose from tougher carbon restrictions.

  8. Berbalang says:

    I don’t want to get into how I know this, but one denial organization charged by the denial and had a price list detailing how much they charged to write an article, write a paper, write a book, give a talk, etc. This is not discussion, it is denial for hire.

  9. paulm says:

    Joe, post #11 was not posted by me.

    Is there a security issue?

    [JR: Probably not. Most likely a vestige of the transition. Will monitor.]

  10. djrabbit says:

    @KJ

    If Waxman-Markey was in effect, would Los Angeles take this kind of action knowing that its reduced use of coal power would simply allow more use of coal power elsewhere

    In a sense, LA’s decision “allows” that even before ACES — their decision allows others to emit more without before we reach a climactic tipping point. But ACES gives an additional motivation, namely that new coal becomes too expensive to justify itself, because new coal plants calculate their ROI over the next 30 years, and the cap will start to bite well before then.